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Ready to Flip the Switch

Wigo4it's digital transformation journey to Microsoft Azure, showcasing a road leading from an old data center to a vibrant cloud
“Soon, we’ll switch off our data center forever! This will save us millions and give the organization a huge boost. After a journey like this, looking back and seeing how far we’ve come together is amazing. If we can do this, we can do anything!” — Teun van der Vorm, Managing Director Wigo4it.

In 2021, Wigo4it embarked on the journey of a lifetime — moving its business to the cloud. Now, the big moment’s in sight. By the end of this year, the company will switch off its data center for good.

Dutch software developer Wigo4it supplies the country’s four largest municipalities with a social welfare management solution. One day, they started to question its value for money. “In response, we commissioned a study that showed we were offering a feature-rich, ultra-secure, but high-priced service. Back then, the choices we made for our data center were not all lean and mean. You could say we were running the Rolls Royce of data centers,” says Teun Van der Vorm, Managing Director of Wigo4it. 

Sabine van Rooijen (tribelead People & Excellence) en Teun van der Vorm (Algemeen Directeur)

Driven by a significant cost-reduction ambition, Wigo4it then teamed up with Xebia | Xpirit to implement a multi-year plan to move its business to Microsoft Azure, adopt a DevOps way of working and future-proof its product. René van Osnabrugge, CTO at Xebia | Xpirit, adds: “The idea was to transform Wigo4it into a full-focus SaaS company, switch off its overly expensive data center and realize additional cost savings through DevOps and automation. Ultimately, the goal was to reduce costs by 50%.”

Xebia | Xpirit have been working together for a while now. Where do we stand today? Time to check in!

Kicking Off the Journey to the Cloud

Well aware that buy-in can make or break a transformation, Xebia | Xpirit initiated the change at C-level. “If you had tried to start this journey at any other level, we might’ve made progress, but we would never have been where we are today. Having a cloud and DevOps ambassador on our management team solidified the importance of this move from day one and led to a company-wide transformation,” says Jean-Paul van der Ham, Tech Lead at Wigo4it. Van Osnabrugge adds: “In the past, we have tried to initiate this kind of change on other levels, but almost every transformation meets resistance, and buy-in from management is crucial in addressing that.”

From the C-level, change trickled down into the organization, and all preparations were made to migrate Wigo4it’s more than 20-year-old application. But if you think this was a purely technical affair, think again. “Everything has changed,” says Van der Ham. “From how we run the business and the technologies we work with to embracing entrepreneurship, reducing hierarchy, and adopting an Agile mindset. We are a completely new company!” Dennis Hermans, Tribe Lead at Wigo4it, adds: “It’s by no means easy to transform a company on this scale. But should you even consider separating cloud and DevOps? They reinforce each other, and if you only do one, you’ll never reap the full benefit.”

“What we are doing with Wigo4it is not a project. It’s a full-blown transformation. From a traditional to a value stream-driven company. From a project to a product company. From an on-prem to a SaaS company.” — René van Osnabrugge, CTO at Xebia | Xpirit.

v.r.n.l. Dennis Hermans (tribelead IKV) en Jean-Paul van der Ham (Tech Lead)
“Sure, we are saving money, but more than anything, the cloud is boosting our DevOps culture.” — Jean-Paul van der Ham, Tech Lead at Wigo4it.

Gaining Knowledge

At the start of the journey, Wigo4it struggled with a knowledge gap. 

Geert van der Cruijsen, Consultant at Xebia | Xpirit, “Besides temporarily taking on the CTO role, our main task was to share our cloud and DevOps skills.” Sabine van Rooijen, Tribe Lead at Wigo4it, adds: “Azure training gave everyone a solid theoretical foundation. But our main focus was on learning on the job. We encouraged people to take the time to explore Azure together. That formed the foundation of the amazing knowledge-sharing culture we have today.”

Today, Wigo4it’s teams regularly engage in collaborative practices such as pair programming, joint refinement sessions, Azure meetups, and knowledge chapters. They also prioritize innovation through quarterly ‘Funovation Days,’ during which backlogs make way for time to experiment and explore new concepts. This mindset of continuous learning and experimentation is crucial for personal and professional growth, according to Van Rooijen.

In addition to in-house knowledge sharing, Wigo4it (the first Dutch government institution to move to the public cloud) is also committed to sharing knowledge with peers. "Our mission is to make a social impact. In this context, we want to pass on the knowledge and experience we have acquired with public resources to the community," says Hermans. " A lot of public institutions are afraid of the cloud. They stress about where to store data and how to protect it properly. We want to show them that this fear is unfounded. Microsoft Azure offers endless possibilities, and things like security are well taken care of.”

Innovative IT with Social Impact

In the four largest municipalities in the Netherlands, over 100,000 people receive monthly welfare payments to meet their basic needs. You can imagine how important it is that the calculation and payment of the amount is done correctly, on time, and into the right accounts – that’s exactly what Wigo4it’s technology is all about. And with the move to the cloud, the company can now truly be called a pioneer who uses innovative IT to make an (even bigger) social impact.

Today, Wigo4it is a one-of-a-kind employer within the public sector. Van Rooijen, “Here, people can experiment, learn from their mistakes, and work with innovative technology. Combined with the great social responsibility we have, that appeals to a lot of people. Some are in it for IT innovation, and others to use their knowledge of the domain to develop a high-quality product. But what we all have in common is our huge passion and great sense of pride for what we do. We really want to take each other and our product to the next level.”

Hermans, “We attract different people now than before. We have a stronger product vision, focusing on the functionality we think is important for the domain. And doing so with state-of-the-art IT has made us much more appealing to DevOps engineers.”

Besides attracting new talent, Wigo4it can offer its current employees a new and improved employment experience. Van der Ham, “We’ve established a can-do culture: less asking for permission, more doing, self-confidence, courage, problem-solving, great results, a good vibe, extremely low turnover, and happy people.”

Partnering With Xebia | Xpirit

Over the past two-three years, Xebia | Xpirit has been instrumental in guiding Wigo4it through its organizational transformation. What Xebia | Xpirit did for (and with) Wigo4it:

  • Take a top-down approach to ensure that change permeates all layers of the organization, and everyone is involved.
  • A new organizational design based on value streams, with squads, product owners, and minimal middle management.
  • Address the eight pillars of engineering culture, for instance, create a clear digital vision, activate in-house knowledge sharing, shape the release process, and maximize team responsibility ('you build it, you run it').
  • Clear technical debt to ensure a smooth transition to the cloud.
  • Establish a BIO-compliant Azure platform.
  • An intensive knowledge transfer track with the managers, after which they can now operate independently as executives of a cloud company.

Currently, a small team of Xebia | Xpirit’s experts is still at Wigo4it to refine practices and help people move (further) beyond their comfort zone. “Old habits die hard. Xebia | Xpirit is still helping us break old patterns here and there and challenging us to explore the unknown. For instance, refactoring code is new to us. So, by showing us how it’s done and then teaching us to do it ourselves, they’re helping us stand on our own two feet more and more,” says van der Ham.

An Unique Product

By the end of 2023, Wigo4it aims to have its web application running in the cloud. Then, the data center will close soon after. But that doesn’t mean its journey has come to an end!

Van der Vorm, “We were overly customer-driven. To turn that around, we still have lots of optimizing to do.” Van der Cruijsen adds: “The four municipalities essentially had their own unique products. That makes getting back to one solid offering quite challenging — one change requires four different approaches.” Van der Vorm continues: “We’ve started to remove any customization and are working towards a universal, standard solution with a fantastic user experience. After that, we want to further clarify our proposition and expand our market.”

Hermans, “In this stage, we wanted to change as little as possible for the user. We wanted to fully focus on meeting our technical and financial goals first.” Van der Vorm concludes: “And we are happy to say we have achieved these goals! Now, after we’ve switched off our data center, we’re excited to start refining and adding new features.”

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